- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2006

In today’s first game, the buttons on the clock weren’t the only ones being pushed.

In a critical last-round match from the recent French team championships earlier this month, NAO Chess Club’s GM Joel Lautier found himself paired against his ex-wife, WGM Almira Skripchenko, playing for rival Monaco.

Back in 1998, when the two were happily married, a similar pairing produced a five-move draw. This time, however, the exes slugged it out for 48 moves before Lautier managed to win.

Mig Greengard, at his lively Daily Dirt chess blog at www.chessninja.com, noted that the pairing of the former lovebirds was unusual in that neither Lautier nor Skripchenko was playing on the board indicated by their rating. The encounter also proved crucial to the final standings, as NAO’s 5-4 match win nailed down first place in the 16-team event, with Skripchenko’s Monaco team finishing second.

Skripchenko as White does well out of this Closed Sicilian, with a slight space advantage and better pieces entering the middle game. Her 21. Rc1 Rdc8 22. Qe3! sets a sly trap, threatening 23. Rxc8+ Rxc8 24. Rc4!! Qxe3 (Rc6 25. Qxb6 Rxb6 26. Rc8+ Bf8 27. Bxf8) 25. Rxc8+ Bf8 26. fxe3, winning.

But Black slowly equalizes (White probably missed the chance for a timely h4-h5) and Lautier even wins a pawn after 36. Ng5 Rc2 37. b5 Bc4 38. Rc3 Rxc3 39. Qxc3 Bxb5. But White still has excellent chances to hold until 43. e6? (too hasty; 43. Bc5 Re6 44. Bf2 b5 45. Be3 looks good enough for equality) Bxe6 44. Qb2 (banking on the weak dark squares around the Black king, but White has defensive holes of her own) Qe4! 45. Re2 Qd3 46. Bb4 Rc8 (see diagram).

Slowly getting the worst of it, Skripchenko hastens the end with 47. Rxe6? fxe6 48. Qf6 (given the move, White wins with 49. Qxg6+ Kh8 50. Qh6+ Kg8 51. Qxe6+ Kg7 52. Bd6 Rd8 53. Qf6+ Kh7 54. Qf7+ Kh8 55. Be5 mate) Qe3+, and White resigns facing 49. Kh2 (Kf1 Rc1+) Qxf4+ 50. g3 (Kh3 Qg4+ 51. Kh2 Qh4+ 52. Kg1 Rc1+ 53. Be1 Rxe1 mate) Rc2+ and wins.

Dutch GM Jan Timman, one of the West’s best in the years after Bobby Fischer’s withdrawal from the game in 1975, summoned up some of the old magic in winning the Category 13 Sigeman & Co. Chess Tournament in Malmo, Sweden, last week.

The 54-year-old Timman has slipped a bit in recent years, but he raced out in front in Malmo with five wins in his first six games and coasted home to a 7-2 finish, a full point clear of Swedish GM Tiger Hillarp Persson and GM Suat Atalik of Turkey. The popular Dutchman got off to a strong start with a hard-earned Round 1 win over Swedish GM Emanuel Berg.

Berg’s 13. Qe2 dxc4?! (13…Bb7 and 13…Nc6 both promise a quieter game) lands him in unpleasant complications after 14. Be4! cxb3 15. Qd2 Nd7 16. axb3, when both his rook and bishop are hanging. Black must lose material, but the tactics remain tricky for both sides.

Thus, after 18. bxc5 Nxc5, Timman can’t get greedy with 19. Bxa8? Qxa8 20. Qe3, as 20…Bc6 wins back the piece. By 23. Qe4 Rc8, Berg has only two pawns for the piece, but his queen-side pawns are potent and his pieces much better coordinated.

Black may have lost going for the win: 28. Qh4+ f6? (Ke8 challenges White to either take the draw by perpetual check or try the risky 29. Rd1?! Rxe5+!, when White gets the worst of it in lines like 30. Nxe5 Qxe5+ 31. Qe4 [Be4?? Qc3+ 32. Rd2 Qa1+ 33. Rd1 Qa5+ 34. Rd2 Rc1 mate] Qc3+ 32. Rd2 Bc6) 29. exf6+ Kf7 30. Rd1! Rxc2 31. Qh5+ Kxf6 (g6 32. Ne5+) 32. Qxb5 Qc3+ 33. Nd2 Rd8 34. Qb3!, holding White’s rickety game together.

Timman, like a fisherman reeling in a particularly feisty marlin, spends the next 30 moves carefully preserving his material edge and the critical g-pawn. Just when Berg’s passed b-pawn might prove enough to secure a draw, one more sly tactical shot brings White the win.

Thus: 64. Nf5 Rg8 65. Ne7 Rg7 66. Rf7! b3 67. Rxg7 b2 68. Nd5!. If Black takes the knight, 69. Rb7 stops the pawn. If Black queens the pawn, 69. Nc3+ collects the queen. Berg resigned.

French Top 16 Team Championships, Asnieres-sur-Seine, France, May 2006


1. e4c525. Bc5Qc6

2. Nf3e626. Rcd1Re8

3. c3Nf627. Qd3Qa4

4. e5Nd528. Qd2Qb5

5. d4cxd429. Qf4b6

6. cxd4d630. Bd6Rac8

7. a3Nc631. R4d3Rc4

8. Bd3dxe532. Nd4Qd5

9. dxe5g633. Qg3Qb7

10. 0-0Bg734. f4h5

11. Qe20-035. Nf3Bh6

12. Bd2Nce736. Ng5Rc2

13. h4Nf537. b5Bc4

14. Bxf5exf538. Rc3Rxc3

15. Nc3Be639. Qxc3Bxb5

16. Rfd1Qb640. Qb3Bc6

17. Nxd5Bxd541. Rd2Bxg5

18. Bb4Rfd842. hxg5Bd7

19. Bd6Bb343. e6Bxe6

20. Rd4a544. Qb2Qe4

21. Rc1Rdc845. Re2Qd3

22. Qe3Be646. Bb4Rc8

23. b4axb447. Rxe6fxe6

24. axb4h648. Qf6Qe3+

White resigns

14th Sigeman & Co. Chess Tournament, Malmo, Sweden, April 2006


1. Nf3Nf635. Nxb3Rxd1+

2. c4e636. Kxd1Rxf2

3. d4b637. Nd2Ke5

4. g3Ba638. Re1+Kf5

5. b3Bb4+39. h3Rh2

6. Bd2Be740. g4+Kf4

7. Nc3c641. Re4+Kg3

8. e4d542. Nf1+Kf3

9. e5Ne443. Re3+Kf4

10. Bd3Nxc344. Ra3Rf2

11. Bxc3c545. Ke1Rf3

12. dxc5Bxc546. Ra4+Ke5

13. Qe2dxc447. Rxa7Rxh3

14. Be4cxb348. Rxg7Kf4

15. Qd2Nd749. Kf2b5

16. axb3Bb550. Kg2Rc3

17. b40-051. Nh2Rg3+

18. bxc5Nxc552. Kf2Rb3

19. Bc2Qc753. Rf7+Kg5

20. Bd4Rfd854. Re7Rh3

21. Qe3Rd555. Kg2Re3

22. Bxc5Rxc556. Rb7Rb3

23. Qe4Rc857. Rb6e5

24. Qxh7+Kf858. Re6Kf4

25. Qh8+Ke759. Rf6+Ke4

26. Qh4+Ke860. g5Ra3

27. Qh8+Ke761. g6Ra7

28. Qh4+f662. Ng4Rg7

29. exf6+Kf763. Nh6b4

30. Rd1Rxc264. Nf5Rg8

31. Qh5+Kxf665. Ne7Rg7

32. Qxb5Qc3+66. Rf7b3

33. Nd2Rd867. Rxg7b2

34. Qb3Qxb368. Nd5Black


David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at dsands@washington times.com.

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